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ACC Midterm Grades: NC State

(Photo via @NCStateBaseball on X / Twitter)

It is past the halfway mark in the ACC Conference slate, which means it's time for midterm grades to go out on all 14 ACC teams. We continue with the NC State Wolfpack, who currently sit 3rd in the Atlantic Division with an 11-8 record.

The Wolfpack have had a bit of an up & down first half of the season, but hope to subscribe to the hot-cold-hot theory despite a gauntlet of a final month to play in the regular season. They've endured troublesome performances on the road against the likes of Georgia Tech & Louisville, but hold series wins over two Top 10 teams in the country in Duke & Clemson. With North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia & Wake Forest still looming, it's time for NC State to put rubber to the road.

Offense: B

Year in and year out, NC State is typically known for relentless offensive production. In 2024, this has remained *mostly* true, but inconsistencies outside of the 2-3-4 spots in the lineup have shown up with poor timing. Garrett Pennington and Alec Makarewicz, two of the Wolfpack's marquee transfers, have done the bulk of the water carrying up to this point. Both currently sport batting averages north of .350, have double digit extra base hits, double digit home runs, and 40+ RBI. With full transparency, the rest of the lineup has been nowhere close to those levels of production. As a team, the Wolfpack have swatted 55 Home Runs. Pennington & Makarewicz account for 25 of those.

An encouraging sign, however, is that the Wolfpack don't strikeout all that much. Their K-Rate as a team is just 0.202 (20% of Total ABs). The issue has been more so with making solid contact and finding gaps. Without the numbers of the aforementioned Pennington & Makarewicz, the team's count for extra base hits is astonishingly low (only 60 Total). The other seven spots in the order will really need to take things up a notch with the tumultuous remaining ACC games to play.

Rotation: B-

No matter who you have on your staff, it's hard to replace your projected Saturday starter before the season even begins. Matt Willadsen's void has been visibly felt over the course of the first half. A lot of additional questions surrounded Sam Highfill's health and the mystery name for a Sunday Starter for weeks. Some of those questions unfortunately still remain. Sam Highfill struggled early, but has really started to resemble 2021 Omaha Sam Highfill of late. Sophomore Dom Fritton, who boasted an impressive freshman campaign, has not looked anything like himself. That is until last weekend at Clemson. Fritton's ERA had shockingly been in the double digits for the majority of the year before blanking the Tigers over 5.2 innings of work. If the Wolfpack can get Fritton reignited, the dynamic of the season can change in a hurry. The starter for Game 3 remains a revolving door. The Wolfpack have struggled mightily in ACC Game 3's with an ugly record of just 2-4. They'll likely be looking for a younger arm to rise to the occasion and establish some consistency.

Bullpen: C+

I'll shoot you straight here. If you asked me about NC State's bullpen roughly a week ago, my answer would look very different. Many platooning opportunities were shared in the bullpen early on, highlighted by many freshman arms instead of upperclassmen. A good amount of promise was displayed, with an equal amount of well... looking like freshmen. A lot of walks, hits, and backbreaking home runs were surrendered, which is essentially how the Georgia Tech & Louisville series' got out of hand. Since then, freshman Jacob Dudan & sophomores Derrick Smith & Shane Van Dam have exploded onto the scene to provide stability in the back end of the 'pen. If they can continue to produce high leverage outs, this grade will continue to rise. But until then, even a C+ could be a bit generous.

Overall: B-

The NC State Wolfpack arrive at the Mid-Season mark with a 21-14 overall record, 11-8 in conference. Fans and players alike probably feel that they've left a lot on the table. But there's still time to right some wrongs, especially if they're able to pick up series wins against some of the toughest competition in the country over the course of this final month. A few publications currently project NC State as 2 Seed in the NCAA Tournament (shoutout Micah) and that feels pretty spot on right now. The exciting part for the Wolfpack is that they can very quickly boost their resume into that of a Regional Host. The road will not be easy but NC State wouldn't have it any other way.

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